‘Climate change refugees’ refers to people who must migrate to avoid severe livelihood disruption caused long-term changes to their environment due to climate change. Unless drastic changes happen with regard to mitigating and adapting to climate change, it is almost certain the number of climate change refugees will continue to grow. I chose this topic because although I am familiar with the phrase and concept, I had only a theoretical and ‘objective’ understanding of what it means to be a climate change refugee, and I wanted a more ‘human’ understanding.
What I discovered
I read a lot about different communities threatened by climate change and in particular followed the stories of the 3000 Carteret Islanders who must all leave their home islands as soon as possible, but have not received any government support to do this (they are mainly relocating to a larger island 86 km away, but there is no land or infrastructure ready for them).
I found out about a lady, Ursula, who created a charitable organisation to help the Carteret Islanders relocate and establish themselves in their new homes. She is an incredibly inspirational person who is working so hard for her community, and her story is so touching – http://www.tulele-peisa.org/#&panel1-1 (short video clip about her and the charity she set up).
For several months now I have been volunteering with Oxfam New Zealand, creating environmental education materials for schools. For my action this week I created a series of lesson plans and activities about ‘Climate Change and the Pacific’, using Ursula’s story as a key example. The materials are aimed at engaging pupils with climate change, and promoting action and responsible citizenship. I will post a link here when they go online (in a week or so).